Man, am I tired. I just finished the first stage of our two-stage move to Seattle, and am newly appreciative of the adage that the last 10% of your stuff takes the longest to pack. For the smart home, I would add a new universal truth: Decommissioning your gadgets will take three times the time you expect, and you will forget one. And that one you forget will be the one that doesn’t allow you to reset or delete it from your phone.
After moving into a new rental unit, I learned a few more things, too. I also realized that I should have packed more connected devices to make it feel like home. Read on so that you know what mistakes not to make when moving — and which devices can make an apartment homier.
If you’re planning to move, I suggest you break it down in three ways (maybe more if you are like me and are moving to an interim home for a few months). First, figure out which devices you use, in particular which devices you need. Every connected device represents a cost in terms of the time it takes to maintain and troubleshoot it, the energy it uses, and the risks it poses for a data or security breach.
So, if you’re not using that Amazon Dash button or the spare Echo dot in your guestroom, decommission it and get rid of it. As part of the decommissioning process, you should also make sure you delete its permissions with other apps and services. For example, if you decide you no longer need a connected outlet in your living room, make sure you delete the device from your Amazon Echo routines and app or your SmartThings hub and IFTTT recipes. Then reset the device itself to factory settings, delete your account from the app (or just from that device if you have others by the same manufacturer still running), and sell, recycle, or give it away.
Generally speaking, you should delete your devices’ permissions with other apps and services every year or so as part of a spring cleaning. For extra fun — or if you have a glitchy smart home — deleting permissions and resetting your devices back to factory settings can improve performance. The caveat is that you will have to rebuild everything from scratch.
Once you know which devices make your life better (and I suggest figuring that out about a month before you want to put your home on the market), it’s time for the next part of the process — deciding which devices you want to sell along with the house and which ones you want to take with you. I ultimately decided to leave behind all of my gear that was wired into the home and walls.
My thermostats, my video doorbell, my Lutron light switches, and my Amazon Echo-enabled Delta faucet all conveyed with my home and so were subsequently part of the sale listing. But because I didn’t want to confuse potential buyers, I took out my connected light bulbs, motion sensors, and a few other elements that I wanted to keep (mostly because they were portable and I knew I’d be renting for a year and didn’t want to give up the smart life).
I also screwed up. I packed those bulbs and other gear away in a box labeled “smart stuff.” I should have kept it out and brought at least the bulbs to my new apartment, where I could have kept my away and goodnight routines intact. It’s a small inconvenience, but when in a transitional space it’s nice to have a few conveniences.
Everything up until this point took place in the two months before we listed the house.
The next phase of activity took place after we sold our house. My suggestion is that you don’t do what I did and wait until the day before or even the day after your movers come to decommission your gear. I’d start the week before moving, even if it means you can no longer tell Alexa to turn off the lights or dispense two cups of water from the faucet.
You should start this process well in advance because some devices may require a bit more action (and notably, some in-person actions) from you as part of the decommissioning process. For example, my Nest thermostat required me to delete devices on the app and to physically reset the product at the thermostat. Make sure that you check the app to delete your home as well as the device. It will make it less complicated when you install other devices from that same brand in your new home.
To find out how to deactivate my devices I used a mix of Google, this article from CNET, and this checklist from the Online Trust Alliance. Decommissioning devices is much easier to do ahead of time so you don’t forget anything. For example, I forgot to delete my downstairs thermostat made by Lux Products. I couldn’t decommission the device remotely, so I just have to hope the new homeowner does. I did delete my account for that device, so I can’t eavesdrop on the new owners’ temperature settings.
Before packing away devices you plan to take and decommissioning devices you want to leave you should make one big decision. And that is whether you want to to start from scratch at your new home, or you want to port with you everything you’ve already set up. I plan to start from scratch in my new home in Seattle but ported what I had to my interim place in the meantime.
Starting from scratch offers a few advantages. First, you can easily decommission devices by restoring everything to factory settings and deleting all of the information from your apps. It’s also a good idea if you think your devices will go into different rooms, because you would have to relabel them and create new routines anyhow. And finally, a reset is nice for removing glitches.
The downside is you will have to spend time when you get to the new home setting everything back up. If you decide to keep your devices in the same configurations, then my recommendation is to start by setting up your Wi-Fi SSID and password with the same information you used in the old place. That way you can plug in most of your devices and they will automatically hop on the network and resume their activities. That’s what I did in our temporary rental since I didn’t want to spend a lot of time setting up devices for a mere 4-week stay.
This brings me to the rental. I only brought five connected gadgets with me (although I am missing those connected light bulbs). I now have two Amazon Echo devices, a Google Smart Display, a Roku, and my June oven. No, I can’t believe I’m lugging around a 40-pound oven with me, either, but it’s already made my life easier.
Each of those gadgets connected seamlessly to the Wi-Fi network I created (which mirrors my old Wi-Fi network), so I didn’t waste time on setup. I’ll do all that in the new home in a month.
So, check back in another four weeks or so, after I’ve done a complete refresh and gone through the new home to make sure I factory-reset all of the devices that come with it. It’s the only way I can prevent those gadgets from sharing my habits with a previous owner. I suppose it’s the modern equivalent of rekeying the locks.